The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.
The Letters of Physics
by Jeremy Gorman, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
You’d think there were enough. You’d think
There were no need for tricks.
The letters of our alphabet
Seem plenty— twenty-six.
The choices should be obvious
When making letters stand
For quantities of physics. Well,
Things weren’t quite that well-planned.
The quantities are many,
And the letters not enough.
Some choices feel intuitive,
But some feel off-the-cuff.
Yes, some are fairly obvious,
But others feel make-do.
In case you have forgotten, kids,
Let’s do a quick review.
A is for acceleration.
B, magnetic field.
C is for the speed of light
That prism tests revealed.
D’s the distance that we’ve come.
Electric field? That’s E.
And F helps us to do things just
A bit more forcefully.
Got gravity? Well, g, that’s good.
Got height? H tells how high.
Got any inkling why it is
That current goes by “I”?
Are precious Joules just energy?
If my school text is right,
To swipe these Joules, all you need do
Is leave lights on all night.
Now k’s got versatility
Like none else under heaven.
It’s constant one... and constant two...
And constant ninety-seven...
L is for inductance, while
Small m denotes the mass.
N acts perpendicular.
You must know this, to pass.
O is at the origin
Of x and y and z.
(X, y and z? We’re not there yet.
We’ll get to them— you’ll see.)
See, every letter has a meaning.
That’s what we are taught.
There’s not a one available—
We’ve used the whole damn lot.
Take P — P’s power. Now take
Q — Q’s charge (Why? Don’t inquire.)
Take R — R’s the resistance that’s
Intrinsic to a wire.
S? Displacement. T’s the time for
One full oscillation.
U is for potential not yet
Lost in demonstration.
V denotes velocity
(Like speed, but it’s a vector).
W’s the work you do—
That’s if you heed your lector.
And how, then, shall we represent
Dimensions (there are three)?
We’ll use the last three letters.
You know: x and y and z.
There, see? Each letter fraught with meaning.
Laden. Soaked right through.
What’s that? The Greek ones? Naw, I checked.
Yeah, they’re all used up too.
So what to do? Accept it, man.
Move on, and learn the course.
Just pray your grade won’t symbolize
The physics concept “Force”
The article above is republished with permission from the March-April 2007 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!
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